Dining With Denise Neil

Whatever happened to Wichita Restaurant Week?

Kansas City just finished its annual Restaurant Week event, and Lawrence is in the middle of its.

But Wichita Restaurant Week, which last happened exactly a year ago, appears to be missing, and several readers have written me to ask about it.

The event will be back for a fifth installment, said Jessica Sawatski, public relations manager for organizer Visit Wichita. But it likely won’t be anytime soon.

“It’s not something that we’re not interested in anymore. It’s definitely a priority and something we want to continue,” Sawatski said. “We just don’t know how that will look and when we’ll be ready to roll it back out.”

Restaurant Weeks happen across the country, usually in big cities, and they allow diners to sample dishes at a fixed price at restaurants they may have never visited before. In Wichita, organizers have tweaked the way the event was run every year since it started. The only constant: A portion of the proceeds were donated to The Boys and Girls Club of South Central Kansas, which each year brought in between $7,000 and $12,000.

The first Wichita Restaurant Week happened in June of 2013, when 32 local restaurants participated. During the first year, participating restaurants agreed to serve a breakfast meal for $7, a lunch meal for $15 and a dinner meal for $30.

The second installment happened in October 2014, and organizers tweaked it a bit. They signed up 23 participants, who agreed to serve meals at $10, $20 and $30 price points.

In 2015, Wichita Restaurant Week didn’t happen, but it returned in January of 2016, when 24 restaurants participated and were asked to come up with three-course menus. They were allowed to charge whatever they deemed appropriate, though most went with lunches in the $9 range and dinners in the $30 range.

Then last year, in 2017, restaurants were asked to come up with meals they could offer at either a $15 or a $30 price point. The 28 participating restaurants were free to decide whether they wanted to offer one price level or both, and they also were free to decide what they would include at each price level.

“With each year, we come away with learnings and new ideas are sparked,” said Lynne Smith, director of partnership development for Visit Wichita, in an e-mailed statement. “In order to streamline our collective efforts, explore some of the new ideas that have emerged and make it the most effective and enjoyable experience for everyone – the participating restaurants and patrons – we plan to revamp restaurant week. We know that means a bit of wait, but we’re sure it’ll be worth it.”

Stay tuned for more details on the next Wichita Restaurant Week as they emerge.

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